New research shows that fishing is having a significant impact on the make-up of fish populations of the Great Barrier Reef.
It's long been known that environmental impacts such as climate change and pollution are amongst the drivers of change on the Great Barrier Reef.
Now researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that removing predatory fish such as coral trout and snapper, through fishing, causes significant changes to the make-up of the reef's fish populations.
"A stable and healthy reef includes a high abundance and diversity of predatory fish and a relatively low number of herbivorous and small prey fish," says study lead author April Boaden, a PhD student at the Coral CoE.
"Predatory fish are extremely important for maintaining a balanced ecosystem on the reef, yet predators such as coral trout, snapper and emperor fish remain the main target for both recreational and commercial fishers," she says.
As part of the study, the researchers conducted extensive surveys of fish and their habitats at multiple sites across the Great Barrier Reef.
They compared fish communities in designated marine reserves (green zones), recreational fishing areas (yellow zones) and sites that allowed both commercial and recreational fishing (blue zones).
"We found that the fish communities on reefs differed greatly according to the level of fishing that they were subject to," Ms Boaden says.
"Predator numbers were severely depleted in heavily fished areas, while smaller prey fish such as damselfish, and herbivores such as parrotfish, had increased greatly in number having been released from predation."
The reduction in predator abundance through fishing altered the balance and structure of the coral reef ecosystem.
"Major disturbances such as cyclones, coral bleaching, climate change, Crown of Thorns Starfish and river run-off are thought to be the primary agents of change on the Great Barrier Reef," says study co-author, Professor Mike Kingsford from the Coral CoE.
"Despite this, we have demonstrated that great differences in the abundance of predatory reef fish, and of their prey, can be attributed to humans," Professor Kingsford says.
The findings support the continued and improved use of the existing marine networks on the Great Barrier Reef.
"The good news is that the data demonstrate that the current system of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef is effective in preserving predator numbers, and in doing so we can learn more about the processes affecting reefs in the face of multiple impacts," Professor Kingsford says.
"Fishing impacts are something that we can manage fairly easily compared to other threats such as climate change and run-off pollution, which are threatening the Great Barrier Reef," adds Ms Boaden.
Predators drive community structure in coral reef fish assemblages by A. E. Boaden and M.J. Kingsford is published in the journal Ecosphere.
(Images must carry photographer credits as listed in Dropbox.)
April Boaden, Coral CoE, +61 (0) 458 565 194, firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Michael Kingsford, Coral CoE and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, email@example.com
Eleanor Gregory, Coral Coe Media, + 61 (0) 428 785 895, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eleanor Gregory | EurekAlert!
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine